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The Difference Between A Great Leader And A Regular Manager

The Difference Between A Great Leader And A Regular Manager

That’s kind of a funny title to me, honestly. The difference between a great leader and a regular manager—as if the two are actually similar. Like asking, “what’s the difference between an orange and a tangerine?” A leader and a manager are so entirely different from each other, in my opinion. More like an orange and a shovel!

But this question is asked because there is a perception that they’re similar. A false perception. So many people are so used to a corporate hierarchy that they assume that their superior—their manager—is also someone they should follow and look up to. And a lot of managers automatically assume that their status makes them a leader, that people should look up to them and hold them in high regard.

All that is completely wrong and makes no sense. You have little say in who is assigned to be your manager, but you choose who you are going to follow. A manager of a department is just a title—it’s just another name for someone who was given a certain amount of authority over other employees. Yet, any one of those employees could be a leader.

It also greatly matters what area of life we’re talking about. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the traditional manager as leader in a company. Keep in mind, though, that this extends to all areas of life, like being a leader within your family and community, or being a leader within your circle of friends and with your hobbies.

As an online marketer, I can’t simply manage. With my colleagues, clients, and contractors, there is very little room for simply telling them what to do. I have to back everything up with my actions, my performance, and my integrity. Being an entrepreneur has required that I learn how to lead, and fast.

My many years in the corporate world gave me many lessons on the friction created when people think of being a leader as an assigned title, as opposed to an earned status that has to be backed up by daily actions.

If you’re a manager at your company, how can you become a better leader? As an employee, what traits do you look for in a leader that distinguishes them from just a manager? Let’s look at some key points.

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1. A great leader connects daily work with greater goals, rather than focusing on short-term results.

The larger the company, the easier it is to lose site of greater goals. Even at the largest, most successful companies in the world, you will find within them a series of departments doing the same tasks day in and day out. Microsoft, Google, Virgin Inc., all have budget and accounting departments, operations, and IT departments. In just about every company in every industry, the purpose of those jobs is pretty much the same.

When I used to work in investment banking and trading, I often had this empty feeling that my work was just getting lost among the mass of work throughout the company. I’d hand it in by a certain deadline, and I’d rarely hear anymore about it. Who did it actually go to? Who actually looked at it and relied on it? How did it actually contribute to the company as a whole and what goals did it serve?

Every goal, no matter how great, has to be broken down into smaller goals, daily goals, and eventually actionable steps. These actionable steps make up an employees job description and duties. But how often are employees reminded of why they’re doing what they’re doing?

It’s that employee’s job to go in each day and take care of those assigned duties. It’s the manager’s responsibility to make sure that his team is completing all of the assigned duties.

A leader, however, keeps that greater goal in mind. A leader is aware of how this seemingly boring and repetitive work is contributing to and accomplishing a greater goal. A leader knows that success is boring, that it is made up of consistency and discipline.

A manager focuses on making sure all the daily work is done, which is his job and makes him look good and will eventually lead to a promotion. A leader does all that, but at the same time, makes sure his employees are aware of their contribution to the greater goals.

2. A great leader thinks of people as people instead of seeing only titles and organization.

A manager can justifiably only look at his job as managing a department. Everyone’s title gives him a clear summary of what they do and what to expect from them, including himself. A manager has a place in an organization and he/she is either looking to remain in that capacity successfully or move up higher within the company.

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Within that context are actual employees with lives and feelings of their own. A leader is aware of that on a regular basis. Knowing who your employees are, their strength and weaknesses, their aspirations and fears, their dreams and passions is an intangible but very valuable asset. It allows you to organize the work within your department to everybody’s strength. It allows people’s self confidence to grow.

When people feel appreciated and valued, their energy level goes up. Their pride and sense of integrity in their work goes up. Not just for themselves but because they also care how they reflect on their manager.

3. A great leader is excited about members’ achievements instead of feeling threatened.

A manager is also an employee, with his own goals and motives. Everyone wants to get ahead and be recognized for their achievements. As a manager, that position often means that you get recognized and congratulated for the success of your department, which is fair enough because the functioning of the department is the manager’s responsibility.

At the same time, it is possible for a member of the team to be individually recognized for a job well done.

There are two courses of action here for both scenarios above. Unfortunately, the more common scenario is that the manager will accept the praise and recognition for the performance of the department and pat himself on the back for being a great manager. And when a member of his team is recognized for their accomplishments and contributions without him, there will be a natural reaction of feeling threatened. After all, an employee moving up could mean him moving down.

A leader won’t look at it that way. A leader will immediately remind the organization that it was the work of the individuals that allowed his team to perform so well. They made his job easy, and the recognition should go to them, by name.

A leader will be the first one to stand up and shout “congratulations!” to a team member without any feeling of threat. Why? Because a leader revels in the success of others and knows that pulling other up is how he will succeed, not by keeping others down.

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4. A great leader feels responsible when members make mistakes instead of blaming the team.

Accepting responsibility is one of the more undervalued traits out there. Sure, we can all agree that it’s admirable and everyone should do it, but easier said than done, which is why it can be so hard to teach! It has to be taught by example—so if it’s easier said that done, who’s doing the teaching?

A manager locates the source of a mistake and blames that person—which is fine; a person should accept blame for their mistakes and strive to do better next time. But the manager is also the representative and advocate for this team. So when he blames his team for a mistake to people outside of the team, two things can happen. First, it makes his team look bad. Second, his team can lose trust and respect for him because they now know that he won’t advocate for them and is putting himself first.

A leader, however, sees the performance of his team as his responsibility. Since their work reflects on him, he accepts responsibility for their performance. Mistakes are part of human nature, but they can also reflect a problem with the system that the team functions within. Why was the mistake made, and how can it be prevented in the future? What can the team improve? These are the concerns that come to a leader’s mind. While he will be aware of who made the mistake and why, he will not announce it to the world. Instead, he will accept responsibility for what happened.

A leader leads by example. By accepting responsibility for the mistakes of his team, his team will learn to accept responsibility for their work and naturally be more thorough in the future. This small gesture also helps his team members improve the quality of their work and, therefore, their careers—which, as we know, a leader cares about.

5. A great leader is more concerned with the process than the results.

What’s more important: the result or the process? Every company or organization is going to be concerned with the bottom line, of course. Results have to be seen in order for goals to be achieved. A manager is keenly aware of what work needs to get done and the deadlines that apply. A manager has to show results and will be held accountable for them. So it’s in a managers best interest to demand and expect results from his team.

If you look at the bigger picture you’ll see that, with a proper system in place, work will get done thoroughly, on time, and results will be a natural by product of how efficient the system in place is. So what if results aren’t being shown consistently? Or to the desired level? A leader understands that it’s the process that’s most important. One bottleneck could be handicapping an otherwise efficient system and team of people.

A leader is keenly aware that it’s the process that needs to be nurtured and monitored. Results are just a symptom.

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6. A great leader uses passion to motivate and inspire instead of using authority.

As tempting as it is to wield your authority when a deadline is approaching or when better performance is needed, it can only take you so far. In some cases, it can be effective or even necessary to use your authority. Tough love has its place. But again, it can only take you so far and it typically has short term results. People aren’t going to go home with growing respect for a manager that constantly says “do as I say.”

A leader has passion and knows that passion is contagious. Even on mundane projects, a leader can be passionate about the performance of his team, about completing the project and the sense of accomplishment everyone will get out of it.

A leader seeks to use his passion to inspire his team. Inspiration will allow people to take their effectiveness and productivity to new heights, every single time.

7. A great leader actively supports his team instead of handing out assignments.

My business is entirely remote. My students, contractors and colleagues live all over the place. The only way I can see great results with my team is to get in there with them. Everything I teach, I am doing myself. Every assignment that I contract out, I have worked on myself and in many cases will continue to work on and help those contractors out if they need it.

A manager can tend to simply hand out assignments and expect them to be completed. A leader actively supports his team and doesn’t hesitate to help his team out when it’s needed, as opposed to sitting idly by looking at the deadline.

A leader considers himself part of the team, fully interested in the success and well being of everyone on the team.

Do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything that I missed? Please share your thoughts below!

Featured photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/profile/spekulator via freeimages.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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